Mary Ousley Owen is a Nashville based Clinical Psychotherapist working toward a Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She has a passion for art and incorporates art therapy into her practice. Mary Ousley has been passionate about art from a young age and has used it as an outlet to cope with her own personal mental health struggles. Mary Ousley is also an artist and does commission work as well as personal composition. Mary Ousley gets candid about the importance of taking care of your mental health, navigating choosing a career path post-grad during a global pandemic, being a clean beauty guru, and her wildest beauty choices. She is very open and wise beyond her years!
What drew you to art therapy?
I’ve always had a passion for art since I was a little girl. I dealt with a lot of mental health issues growing up so art became an escape and an outlet for me for expression. It wasn't until high school that I really realized I was good at it. I qualified for AP art my senior year and got awarded a gold key for my whole portfolio. I realized how powerful art could be with helpling treat mental health issues to express things inside you when you don't have the words to express them out loud. Then, I went to college and figured I wanted to at least minor in art because I loved it so much.I double majored in Art and Psychology.
I think a lot of people can relate to feeling lost after graduation. How did you find your way?
Once I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I graduated in 2020, so life kind of came to a halt for a second because I didn't even get to finish senior year [in person]. I kind of lost my way a little bit. I didn’t want to be a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist and I didn’t really know where to go at that point because the whole world shut down and there really wasn’t any options for in person classes. I started applying to schools in August of 2020 for Mental Health Counseling. All the art therapy schools were up North and I couldn’t really get there because of Covid. I had to reevaluate. I ended up finding Belmont for Mental Health Counseling in Nashville. Before I really even had my interview I asked them if I could incorporate art into my counseling. I got in!
Tell me about your journey to turning your art into a business.
I took a semester off because I didn’t want to start Zoom school and I thought the world would go back to normal, but it didn’t. So in that time period I started creating art and commission work for other people just to make some spare money. I decided to start an Instagram because that was the only way you could socialize at that time. I just started posting some of my artwork and started getting more and more followers. I started receiving DM’s about if I do any commission work. I started experimenting with watercolors and applied techniques from oil painting to watercolor. Finding an avenue to a medium and putting my own twist on it was key to finding customers.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Nature. I have always been a really down to earth person. I love nature and I love being outdoors. I just don’t think there’s anything more inspirational than being one with nature. Just going outside and being outside really helps me.
You’re finishing your Masters soon.
I’m graduating in May. I’ve been in it for almost 2 and half years now. I’m in Clinical Mental Health Counseling so I’ll be a licensed Mental Health Counselor when I graduate.
Tell me about where you work currently.
I work mainly with adolescents. They’ve lost prime growing and developmental time, so they come in with many different issues and symptoms. I do a lot of group work but I also have individual clients. The groups are mixed diagnoses, so you get people with all different types of problems that learn to work through them while also learning to socialize and make connections with others. I incorporate art with most of my adolescents. I get kiddos who don’t know how to socialize or talk to express themselves or their problems because they were never taught how to. Exploring their inner world through art has become a really powerful source to get to the bottom of what they’re dealing with. The Collective opened in February of 2020. My director had a private practice for a long time and realized there was such a need for the social wellness piece. These kids and adults go into in-patient facilities, then they get thrown back into their real world and end up right back to where they began. We have a scholarship program for people who need it and that's what the donations go toward.
What are some myths about your industry you would like to debunk?
For mental health, it's the stigma. When people think you don’t need to seek help for things you can get over yourself. That’s just not true. For art, I think it’s that art is easy. It’s not.
What’s the craziest truth about your industry that you’ve learned?
Starving artists! It’s hard to make money in art because it’s so subjective.
What advice would you give to someone about pursuing their passions?
I would say take the pressure off yourself while pursuing your passion. Stop criticizing yourself for the ups and downs that come with pursuing your passion. “Every artist was first an amateur”. I think that can apply to everything in life. You’re not going to start off as an amazing expert, you’re going to start as a beginner in everything you do. It’s about spending the time practicing to get to where you want to be. Practice understanding and grace with yourself, with others and with experiences. Just embrace where you are in the moment and embracing that journey you’re on is what makes your passion worth pursuing. If you’re burned out at some point, take a break. Taking the pressure off yourself and doing something else, something you enjoy, something different, and then coming back to it you may return with a greater perspective and a greater appreciation for your gifts and where you are in life.
What is the best advice you’ve received? What is the worst advice you’ve received?
I love this quote, I got it from @thirdeyethoughts a while back, “be mature enough to disengage from things or people or places that disrupt your peace”. The worst, this is kind of mental health related, but can apply to anything in life is when people say ‘you’ll be fine’, or ‘I understand’, or ‘just keep trying to move forward and you’ll forget about it’. That’s extremely invalidating to people’s experiences. It's important to take the time for yourself to grieve and think about what your experiences are and how they affect you.
Can you recommend a book, podcast, or resource that you love?
Switching to beauty- you’re a clean beauty enthusiast. What made you seek out clean beauty?
I have very sensitive skin. If I use anything that’s not clean I usually break out or get hives. When I started using clean products it really helped with my acne. I don’t ever want to compromise my health in order to feel pretty or look pretty. I always look for things that are good for the environment, ethically sourced, sustainable ingredients and not from animals.
If you were a beauty product what would you be?
I think for sure I’d be a serum. Probably a hyaluronic acid serum because it helps with so much. It hydrates, strengthens, plums, helps with fine lines and wrinkles. Mainly because it helps with dry skin too. I feel like it works wonders.
What 3 beauty products are you bringing to a desert island?
For sure a cleanser, hyaluronic acid, a moisturizer with sunscreen in it, and a hair mask. Gotta have a hair mask. My hair is dry and curly and a hair mask does it all.
Who do you look to for beauty inspiration and expertise?
Everyone. I have so many. Emma Watson of course because she’s my role model in life and beauty. She’s natural and she embraces what she looks like and how she is and I love that about her.
Do you have any beauty hacks you want to share?
I really will try anything if it's good for you. Hair masks, always. Always do a hair mask at least once a week because I just feel like your hair needs it. Guasha, always with some oil. I love pimple patches. If you do them two nights or days in a row it's perfect and it goes away. My number one hack is to give your hair a break. Don’t over-do your hair because it’s delicate and it will break.
What’s your favorite Cleanest Lab product?
I love the Hair Mask. I used it last night. I honestly love all three products. I love the mask because it’s a conditioner and mask duo so it works for both. I need the extra hydration boost. It revitalizes my hair. I also love the Leave-In Conditioner. Sometimes I just wet my hair and put it in there when I need some ummph. I love the smell, the smell is delicious. I feel like my hair is so much more hydrated.